Choice of suffix for 3rd person plural in construction ’to have’

Lazar_Bgd

Member
Serbian - Serbia
Dear all,

I understand that when the owner is expressed by a noun and it is in 3rd person plural, in the construction ’neki van vmije’, i.e. ’to have’, one can use the suffix on the thing possessed for either plural or singular, for example:

Az orvosoknak van házuk
or
Az orvosoknak van háza

My question is: is there any preference between the two in everyday usage or maybe in writing or does it make no difference which one you use...?

Thank you!
 
  • Zsanna

    ModErrata
    Hungarian - Hungary
    Hello Lazar_Bgd,

    This is a very delicate matter that even native speakers won't agree about and the books will explain this matter in long pages (14, in my Nyelvművelési Kézikönyv).
    The preference, I would say, firstly depends on the meaning in general. However, often it is not respected.

    If the first is meant that these doctors own a house each (at least one/person) and if the second is used in the same meaning, you will hear either sentences. Probably the second more often even though the first is "more correct" (in this construction and according to the books).

    The second sentence may mean that they all "own" (/they share the same building) one house originally but as it is not usually the case (unless e.g. they are accommodated in the same house on a foreign mission), I suppose, this is why it has become interchangeable with the first sentence.
    Another reason is that our language often uses the singular when there is a possibility for that. (This has nothing to do with the recent incorrect usage of the plural which is probably more due to interference/influence coming from foreign languages or simple sloppiness of the same origin.)
     

    Lazar_Bgd

    Member
    Serbian - Serbia
    Dear Zsanna,

    Thank you so much, I just now realize there is this additional layer of meaning when there is one thing possessed but in the sense ‘each possessor has its own’ like in the following: “These girls have pretty faces” (it is clear that one girl can have only one face). So, how would you render this sentence into Hungarian?

    Ezeknek a lányoknak szép arca (or arcuk?) van
    or
    Ezeknek a lányoknak szép arcai (or arcaik?) vannak


    And also, while we’re at it, does this vacillation between the suffixes also exist in cases when there is unequivocally more than one thing possessed, like for example: ‘The pupils have nice pencils’? Here’s my try below:

    A diákoknak szép tollai vannak
    or is it rather:
    A diákoknak szép tollaik vannak


    Thank you!
     

    Zsanna

    ModErrata
    Hungarian - Hungary
    Let's see whether I'll manage a correct answer. (I'm afraid I do not have a nice, short answer to this ready...)

    Some ideas first to keep in mind (taking báty+ the possessive endings as examples to make it clear that we are talking about just one elder brother or more):
    - when there is one property (= one elder brother) per owner (singular and plural): bátyám, bátyád, bátyja, bátyánk, bátyátok, bátyjuk. (= my, your, his/her, our, your, their brother)
    - when there are more than one properties (= more elder brothers) per owner (singular and plural): bátyáim, bátyáid, bátyái, bátyáink, bátyáitok, bátyáik. (= my, your, his/her, etc. brothers.)

    From this, you can see already "what sort of plural" we mean in the case of bátyjuk, házuk or arcuk. The plural refers only to the possessor/owner meanwhile the possessed thing/person is in the singular.

    Az orvosoknak van házuk. (= more than one doctors + more than one houses all in all but one each) /Az orvosoknak van háza - not "proper" grammatically, but is used in the same meaning, too.
    One trick here: if you replace "az orvosoknak" by "nekik", it turns out immediately (at least to a native speaker, sorry!) that you can only use "házuk", so that must be the right form. (Because "Nekik van háza" is really, obviously wrong.)

    Now the girls and their nice faces (so plural "owners" with "one property" each):
    No matter how many girls we talk about, each can only have one face (= one property!)
    So A lányoknak szép arcuk van. (Or, a different structure that sounds even better: A lányoknak szép az arcuk.)
    Here "... szép arca van/... szép az arca" can be heard but is not correct grammatically.

    And the pens (= more than one property per owner):
    The correct form is your second version: A diákoknak szép tollaik vannak. (Or A diákoknak szépek a tollaik.)
    Funnily enough, your first version sounds acceptable to me as well: A diákoknak szép tollai vannak. (Or ... szépek a tollai.) I don't know whether it is just me but this version sounds a bit more acceptable to me than the grammatically equally incorrect forms above. (A lányoknak szép arca van/Az orvosoknak van háza.)

    I do not know exactly why the 3rd person Sing. (his/her pens) suffix may be sufficient, unless because in these constructions the expression of the right number of the properties is more important than the expression of the right number of owners, or this plus the fact (which is certainly true) that the forming of this type of suffixes always "starts" from the 3rd person Sing. so coming back to it fits the "logic" of the process. (E.g. Sing. propriety ->bátyám= bátyja + m /Pl. propriety-> bátyáim= bátyja + i + m - only the "j" disappears, so it is not obvious. The starting point of "bátyja" is the same for all the other persons in this line.)
    This may also be the linguistic background for the reason I gave above that Hungarian "prefers the singular" (even when it is obvious that we talk about something in the plural, logically or even expressed), especially the 3rd person singular. (It is the same for the verbs, grosso modo, this is why you'll find them in their 3rd. person Sing. form in the dictionaries and not their infinitive, like it is the case in a lot of other languages.)
     
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    Zsanna

    ModErrata
    Hungarian - Hungary
    After all this, I remembered another thing that is the answer to your question! (I should be more precise about this but I'll come back with it, if necessary.) Shortly, the problem is that in some constructions the "egyeztetés" (concordance in French, agreement/synchronisation in English?) is obligatory, in others it is not. It is possible that because they all use the possessive suffixes, we mix these cases because we can't differentiate them clearly any more.
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    This is a very delicate matter that even native speakers won't agree about
    I agree that we may not agree.:D
    I wouldn't like to confuse Lazar even further, so I decided not to add anything to your comprehensive post, but just for his information: there are some phrases that you consider ungrammatical but which sound OK to me, and vice versa.

    agreement/synchronisation in English?
    "Agreement" is the usual term.
     

    Zsanna

    ModErrata
    Hungarian - Hungary
    Thank you, AndrasBP for the "agreement".:)

    As for the examples which are not "grammatically correct" (according to the Nyelvművelő Kézikönyv), none sounds "bad" to me clearly, either (except the girls with "many faces") but the fact that some sound "better" than the others does indicate that at least my (native speaker) "ears" are either not reliable or there is some further "trick" behind all this. So I would think that there is space for further explanation (or impression) surely.;)
     

    Lazar_Bgd

    Member
    Serbian - Serbia
    Dear Zsanna, Dear AndrasBP,

    thanks a lot for this, very useful! I've been puzzled so far when seeing usage that is different from what the 'nyelvkönyv' says but now I'll know!
     

    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    I agree with Zsanna and AndrasBP. For curiosity, I try to present my spontaneous subjective interpretations of the discussed phrases. If you find them more confusing than helpful, please, ignore them.

    Az orvosoknak van házuk :tick:(the doctors have a house, however some of them [or all] may share the same house)
    Az orvosoknak vannak házaik :tick:(the doctors have houses, some of them [or all] may have more than one house)
    Az orvosoknak van háza :cross: (it should mean that all the doctors share an only house, but for some reason it doesn't sound quite good "to my ears"...)

    Ezeknek a lányoknak szép arcuk van :tick:(each girl has a beautiful face)
    Ezeknek a lányoknak szép arcaik vannak :tick:(there are more faces that the girls share "somehow" ... irreal, but grammatically correct)
    Ezeknek a lányoknak szép arca van :cross: (it should mean that all girls have one common face, but it is not real and at the same time it doesn't sound quite good "to my ears"...)

    A diákoknak szép tolluk van :tick: (the students have pens, some of them [or all] may share the same pen ...)
    A diákoknak szép tollaik vannak :tick:(the students have pens, some of them [or all] may have more than one pen)
    A diákoknak szép tolla van :cross: (it should mean that the students have one common pen ...)

    My personal conclusion is that, though grammatically all the sentences could be considered correct, the idiomaticity of these sentences is context-dependent, however not arbitrary. (This constatation doesn't help too much, I know.) Further more, I notice that in IE languages similar (though not necessarily equal) ambiguities/uncertainties are present as well.
     
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